A Sea Change attempts to transform the complicated, esoteric topic of ocean acidification into a relatable, easy to understand issue concerning humans and ocean acidification’s potential effects on our future. While informative, the movie sent conflicting messages about whether or not ocean acidification is truly a solvable problem. The film was thorough and provided an ample amount of facts and statistics from many different scientists around the world. Although successful in enlightening the general public about the issue of ocean acidification, the movie did not properly encourage people to take action against the issue and did not offer solutions readily available to the common person.
Sven, a grandfather concerned with the effects of ocean acidification, primarily tries to become more knowledgeable about the subject because of the implications on his grandson’s life. He is afraid his grandson will not be able to experience and love the ocean the way that he could. The use of children makes the audience look towards the future and consider the effect of ocean acidification by the time the children of today are adults. It pulls on the heartstrings of the audience, making it a personal issue everyone wants to prevent. If the movie had outlined solutions and ways that ordinary people could help slow or stop the copious amounts of CO2 entering the ocean, then the consistent reference to children would have had more impact. Both the problem and the solution would be personal and within the means of a concerned citizen. Instead, many of the scientists outlined solutions only made feasible by high-ranking government officials or made the problem seem unsolvable. One scientist in particular, when asked if we are screwed and can do nothing to stop the damaging effects of ocean acidification, replied with yes, we are screwed and we can do nothing about it. The contradictory messages leave the audience worried about the future, but resigned to the idea that there is nothing they can do but wait for the described changes in the movie.
A Sea Change makes the topic of ocean acidification much more accessible and allows the growing concern to reach a much wider range of people. But, the number of people who know about the problem amounts to nothing if they are not equipped with ways to help prevent the detrimental effects on oceans. Wind power is proposed as an increasingly popular solution if only wind turbines were more prevalent around the world. While, it seems simple, there are not many people who have the resources to create wind farms. The solution is lost on the general public and meant purely for large corporations or the government. If the movie is intended to educate and motivate ordinary people, then the solutions outlined should reflect that. The movie is effective in spreading awareness and providing extensive information about ocean acidification, but does not present solutions consistent with the targeted audience.
As the narrator in the movie, Sven Huseby, observes every generation has a major crisis it has to face. The issue that we are currently facing is “saving the planet” from various human related causes. A Sea of Change sheds light on this issue, specifically focusing in on the negative human impacts on the oceans and seas. Before taking this class whenever thinking about harmful human interactions with the environment I always thought of land not water. Sven Huseby’s approach of putting the importance of preserving and cleaning up water changed my view of human interaction with the world.
Huseby utilizes three important different types of appeals: emotional, logical, and ethical. He is able to hit a chord with audience members discussing the repercussions that will affect the future generations due to our actions today. The majority of Americans have families or people in younger generations that they care about and would not wish evil upon them. By illuminating the issue, ocean acidification will have on future generations; Huseby effectively strikes a chord within our hearts. He also spreads light on why preserving the environment for the future makes sense. Talking to scientists around the world Huseby reveals the importance of ocean acidification. They discuss how ocean acidification is affecting our everyday aspects of our life, such as the crippling effect on economies of towns due to the reduction of fish and other aquatic animals that we use. As Huseby visited the town in Alaska that had been affected by the oil spill, I was shocked to see the how drastically the town had been affected but had not made a larger impact for the rest of nation/world. No one would wish such hardships on fellow human being. It is suggested in the movie that people if well informed would be ethically inclined to change their lifestyles in order to help save the environment. This ethical obligation we have to ourselves, neighbors, and in general other human beings is downplayed and does not receive proper recognition.
I thought that the family orientation Huseby used for the movie allowed for a larger audience to grasp the seriousness of the issue of ocean acidification. The use of letters to Huseby’s grandson allowed the content of the movie to be simplified and more understandable for an “average” person.
The presentation of the movie was extremely well done in my opinion for reaching multiple groups. However, it concerns me that this film will not influence many people due to the lack of recognition. I feel that movies and other media related to ocean acidification and global warming needs to be given more attention.
The film A Sea Change provides an interesting example of the rhetorical strategies that people use to talk about the topic of ocean acidification. The members of mainstream media often use scare tactics such as apocalyptic framing to catch the attention of an audience and make their message sink in. A Sea Change starts out with a very apocalyptic tone but quickly uses the sentimental appeal of the protagonist’s family and grandchildren to make the issue even more heart felt to give added influence to the suggestions that the film ends with. The rhetorical strategies used by the director of A Sea Change are intended to motivate viewers to take action against ocean acidification.
Different rhetorical strategies have very different effects on audiences; the group of them used in A Sea Change seem to succeed in their goal of influencing audiences to take action. The movie opens up with a series of interviews with scientists and other authorities who use phrases like “mass extinction” and “dangerous territory”, and make statement including “within 50 years all coral may disappear” and “Are we screwed? Yeah”. The purpose of these statements at the beginning of the film is a scare tactic to capture the attention of any viewer. Very few people find it easy to ignore a large group of scientists telling them that they are going to die or that the world is coming to an end. The prediction of a problem leading to the end of the world as we know it is called apocalyptic framing. Once the viewers are hooked, the director of the movie then switches over to an emotional appeal by introducing the grandson of the protagonist. The idea of a questionable future for innocent children around the world is the main motivational part of A Sea Change. People do not want to feel responsible for a bleak future for others, especially if they have or plan to have children of their own. So what can these concerned viewers do to help? Once again the director changes gears and begins to focus on current efforts to reduce the causes of ocean acidification. The examples given include a hotel that has a heating and cooling system that produces no CO2 emissions. Perhaps the more eye catching example is the wind-turbine company. This example is important because it suggests to the viewers that by investing in this company or a similar one they can make money while promoting clean energy that could lead to an end in ocean acidification. The director of A Sea Change uses rhetoric to present a very compelling story about ocean acidification.
The rhetoric of A Sea Change follows a logical progression that allows it to have an increased effect on viewers. The apocalyptic framing draws people in, once they are hooked the director makes an emotional appeal by discussing what could happen for future generations, finally she tells the viewers what they have to do to save the oceans. Maybe this combination of strategies will help the film to be more successful than so many other articles and journals on the topic. Hopefully it will get the public support that is needed to stop ocean acidification.
What if the Romans Used Coal?
Barbara Ettinger’s A Sea Change: Imagine a World Without Fish is very straightforward in addressing the issue of global warming and its impact on the oceans. The main character, Sven Huseby, travels to several places around the world to see the various perspectives on the damage that has been done. Even though each individual he meets provides a different example of the detriments to the environment (such as the impact on glaciers or the damage done to pteropods), the root problem is the same in each situation – rising levels of acidity in the ocean. However, one expert authority provides a very thought-provoking scenario to Sven and his audience that, while making us ponder the future of the planet, immediately polarizes the situation of global warming and ocean acidification to two extremes.
The doctor clearly paints the picture for us – imagine if the Romans had discovered coal and figured out how to use it as a source of energy the way we do today. He follows this up with a rhetorical question the Romans might have inquired amongst one another that we ourselves ask today – “how will using this resource now affect our planet in the future?” The professor even shows which side he favors by highlighting the “selfishness” of living in only the present and not considering the entire geological time scale. In other words, should we as humans maximize our welfare for the one or two centuries that we have a very solid control and representation in, or should we set aside our personal desires and focus primarily on what’s good for the world.
This indirect message to the audience is a moral appeal disguised as a logical appeal, but there is also an either-or element to it. First of all, the decision between our own welfare and the planet’s well-being taps into our ethics more than our sense of understanding factual information. Further research into the matter shows that the Romans actually did extract and use coal primarily as a heating source (Smith), and therefore the professor’s exaggerated example does have some plausibility. However, by using words such as “selfishness”, the argument pushes us towards the greener, environmental-friendly side of the problem. The audience is given two extreme choices that are phrased as destroying the earth or preserving the earth; most people would clearly pick the latter option simply because they think they can make the difference. In reality, while many people have no trouble saying they would give up natural resources such as coal to help mitigate the effects of global warming, it is not so easy to sacrifice our personal desires and essentially the welfare of society.
While there is a clear logical fallacy in this argument, the professor does effectively make his audience think about the implications of such a scenario. Had the Romans exploited coal on a much more widespread scale, then we would have much bigger problems at hand today. The consequence of burning fossil fuels is the point the professor was trying to make. This specific example can be extended to represent the movie as a whole. There are many instances where the expert authorities present more emotional or ethical arguments as opposed to laying out statistical facts or providing comprehensible evidence. In the end, however, the documentary successfully provides awareness to the issues and gives some discretion in how we should deal with them.
Smith, A. H. V. (1997): “Provenance of Coals from Roman Sites in England and Wales”, Britannia, Vol. 28, pp. 297–324 (322–4).
The environmental documentary, A Sea Change, employs multiple rhetorical devices in an attempt to both show viewers the dangers of ocean acidification and recruit their activism for a campaign against CO2 emissions. The film is filled with phrases like “massive changes of geologic scale” that are meant to highlight the magnitude of the issue. Dramatic music plays in parallel with images of fish and other colorful marine life to provide a foreboding tone when introducing the dangers of ocean acidification. Characters even recite personal anecdotes about how important fish were in their past, but none of these devices are as salient as the abundance of young people in the film. A Sea Change takes every opportunity possible to demonstrate the potential of the next generation.
Sven says early in the film that he is worried about the world Elias will be inheriting, but as a former educator, he understands the potential of Elias’s generation to make a change. He references the hipster generation and how their desire for change was noble and is still recognized today. He uses the hipster generation as an example of how passionate and energetic young people can be. In order to call upon the energy of the hipster generation, A Sea Change is filled with children. Elias’s curiosity and innocence is showcased in almost every scene. Whether it is his fascination with larger fish like whales and dolphins, or his intrigue about the tiny organisms in an isolated ecosystem, Elias enjoys marine life for its beauty and remains untouched by science and the knowledge that the ocean is not invulnerable. Elias’s role is supported by the daughter of the Pteropod researcher. When Sven and the researcher are discussing the “little water angels” the young girl gives her opinion on their appearance but obviously is uninvolved with the discussion about the dangers facing the Pteropods. This recurrent theme shows how children are still unaffected by the poison of politics and greed and how they can look past such mature topics into the true beauty of the ocean and ocean life. In this way, the film subtly makes the point that, while the adults in the world are already too used to the benefits of extreme CO2 emissions (cars, planes, trains, iron and steel) that they forget the importance of marine life, young people still have the ability to form their own opinions. They have to power to find new solutions for the need of a new generation. A Sea Change makes the point that the next generation has the ability to decide that the ocean is important. They have ability to change the infrastructure of the modern world to accommodate new needs and still end the worries of global warming and ocean acidification.
The end of the film supports this by introducing multiple current solutions to the CO2 problems. In addition to showing the availability of wind power in Sweden and America, it highlights a hotel that uses the energy in the ocean—rather than producing CO2 through combustion—to heat the entire facility. Finally, the young people motif returns to the forefront with the groundbreaking scene. This scene is perfect because it combines the energy of the high school students with the dream of a carbon-zero world. The image of one hundred students gathered to help provide a solution to the CO2 problems highlights the ability of the next generation to truly make a positive lasting impact on the world. Sven expresses his happiness with this beneficial project, and the audience of A Sea Change should share in his excitement.
A Sea Change was a great documentary in terms of presenting the dangers of ocean acidification to a general audience. Because the writers stayed away from the complicated science of ocean acidification, viewers are able to see the negative effects of it without being confused by the specifics. However, by simplifying everything the writers ended up with logical fallacies throughout the film. Whether on purpose or not, using these fallacies makes it difficult for viewers to have a thorough understanding of the situation.
One fallacy used extensively attacks both the emotion and logic of viewers. Pteropods are talked about frequently, and Sven makes sure to point out how beautiful and majestic they are. By showing how these small, fragile creatures are so negatively affected by ocean acidification, the writers take advantage of peoples’ soft spot for helpless animals. After getting to viewers’ emotions, the film continues to talk about pteropods and how they are a major part of salmon’s diet. A major chain reaction affecting salmon is talked about, going after viewers again because salmon are a much larger part of our lives than pteropods. However, the film fails to discuss the studies that show how salmon have adapted to eating other food sources in places where pteropod populations are diminished. By leaving these studies out, the film makes the loss of pteropods seem more destructive to our own lives.
Another thing the film oversimplifies multiple times is how much it would cost to fix the CO2 problem in America. Throughout the documentary, Sven is very interested in why nothing significant has been done to lessen our carbon emissions. According to multiple scientists, it would only take 2% of the GDP to solve the CO2 problems we are currently facing. When thrown out as a small percentage, this task seems much more attainable. However, what some people might not know is that the United State’s GDP for 2010 was roughly 14.5 trillion dollars. Simple math tells us that two percent of 14.5 trillion is approximately 290 billion dollars. With the economy and national debt the way it is, coming up with that much money in a responsible way would be very difficult to do. The scientists, and in turn the writers, would like people to believe it is much easier to solve the emissions problem than it actually is.
Overall, A Sea Change did a great job of outlining the present and potential problems caused by ocean acidification. The writers were definitely trying to present the movie to the average viewer, and by doing this used rhetorical fallacies quite often. Whether they did this on purpose is debatable, but considering the tone of the movie it is hard to believe it occurred accidentally. It is an informative movie for anyone interested in the ocean acidification topic, but some discretion is needed when accepting everything that is said.
I believe that first impressions are the greatest impressions. Therefore, I would like to specifically talk about the first line Sven says to start off the movie: “Imagine the world without fish…” This is honestly a very strong, compelling statement that, in my opinion, was put there to alarm the viewer and focus his or her attention to the next eighty five minutes of the film. Since the possible extinction of fish is a universal concern, I think the producer did a good job of presenting this statement in the beginning of the movie. And while explaining the problems that we face with ocean acidification along with its potential effects, the film makers’ use of not that many scientific words allowed viewers without a science background or prior knowledge of this issue to understand and feel for the movie. Also, since Sven brought his grandson as one of the reasons why he cares about the ocean acidification issue so much, it gave the movie a very homey, family-oriented atmosphere. The love and concern that he has for his grandson was able to give off an emotional power to the film.
However, I felt that everything in this movie, all the rhetoric it contained, was like a double-edged sword. I felt that this quote, along with other scenes and conversations inside the scenes, was too overemphasized and gave an unnecessary apocalyptic feeling to it. Although this is a concern that ought to be resolved quickly so that the problems do not become more drastic, I think that the tone set by these exaggerated statements made us as viewers go into a panicked state because we could not do anything to solve this problem. The quote “Imagine the world without fish” sounded very unreasonable and unthinkable because suddenly thinking about something so vital, so essential to this world being gone was actually pretty difficult and hard to grasp. I think this statement is very exaggerated because in order for fish to be gone, it will take way longer than what the movie professed. In addition to this, the film didn’t provide us with any firm resolutions to this problem. Therefore, it made me think that we as people need to be aware of this problem but there is nothing that can be done to solve this problem. Basically put, it seemed like we just had to live with the consequences. Also, I didn’t have a problem with the inclusion of Sven’s grandson but the things that he (the grandson) said were far too sophisticated for somebody his age, thus making the movie and what it stands for lose some credibility. Many of the actions and dialogue that the grandson and even Sven did and said were visibly scripted and this gave the film sometimes an unnatural feel.
As I stated in the first sentence of the paragraph above, I think the rhetoric the film makers used were a double-edged sword. It provided some positive effects as well as some negative effects. Overall, the film did a pretty good job of presenting the issue and ultimately, I think that is what matters most. “Imagine the world without fish” is something that will always remain in my mind, whether that actually ends up becoming true or not.
“A world without fish.” This phrase may seem terrifying, but that is exactly the message that the film “A Sea Change” is trying to convey. Explaining ocean acidification, and telling the story of what it is doing to our oceans and how it will change life as we know it, the producers intentionally express a tone of urgency and alarm.
“A Sea Change” appeals to emotions within the audience so that they will begin to care about ocean acidification. The producers show scenes of gorgeous costal ecosystems and majestic fish and sea mammals swimming though beautiful blue waters to make viewers care about what is in jeopardy. The film hopes that by showing such scenes, the audience will feel bad that the marine life is being harmed by our CO2 emissions and that their home in the blue abyss is rapidly becoming too acidic for them to survive.
Accompanying the appeal to emotion, the film contains many forms of scare tactics to illustrate the dire consequences that will result from ocean acidification. For example, when learning that ocean acidification limits the calcifying ability of organisms and may lead to the demise of these creatures, they may be only slightly upset by the loss of all of the oceans snails and pteropods. This, unfortunately, might not be viewed as a catastrophe. The producers then go a step further by explaining that the loss of these creatures near the bottom of the food chain will create a domino effect of extinction throughout the entire ocean ecosystem. If the pteropod population becomes greatly diminished or extinct, the organisms that eat them, such as mackerel, herring, cod and salmon, will also die of starvation. The larger species such as sharks that eat these fish will then die as well from lack of a food source. Now the audience can see that ocean acidification is an enormous threat to all species in the sea and may be much more concerned.
Another tactic to generate compassion and understanding within the viewer is having a main character that they can relate to. By using an average man, not a scientist or expert in the field of ocean acidification, the viewer may believe that they can make a difference, just as this man is trying to do. Having the main character worried for his grandson’s future because of what ocean acidification will do to the world helps people relate more strongly. The process of CO2 absorption into the ocean may be confusing to viewers and numb interest, but virtually all people can relate to wanting a better future for future generations of loved ones.
“A Sea Change” uses easily understood language to explain a complex topic so that all viewers remain interested. The producers used concise information delivery, including demonstrations and short interviews. The interviews with top scientific experts also gave the information the credibility necessary given that the narrator and main character was a non-scientist.
The producers of “A Sea Change” set out to provide awareness of, and concern for, ocean acidification. Through the use of a tone of urgency and worry, emotional appeals, scare tactics, and teaching a complicated process in an easy to understand format, this goal was accomplished. At the end of the film the viewer is instilled with a feeling of awe for the ocean and its inhabitants, as well as a strong desire to stop ocean acidification and prevent its horrifying effects.
“Chapter 1-4.” Ocean Acidification: a National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. Washington, D.C.: National Academies, 2010. Print.
A Sea Change. Dir. Barbara Ettinger. Perf. Sven Huseby. Niijii Films, 2009. DVD.
Barbara Ettinger’s film, “A Sea Change,” has a clear and unanimous objective: to inform the general public of a catastrophic phenomenon that is threatening the world’s oceans. Prior to my first day in the writing class, “Ocean Acidification,” I myself was among the majority of the world’s population who knew as much about the rising CO2 levels and their effect on the ocean’s water as I knew about the semi-autonomous properties of nano robots. The disheartening fact is that without a general public who acknowledges and understands even the most basic facts, we are headed down a slippery slope. Because of the prevalent ignorance regarding this crisis, Ettinger chose to inform her audience, whether they are children or teachers, of the dire problem facing our world through the use of different rhetorical methods. In doing this, the film follows the quest of a retired history professor, Sven Huseby, to learn about the effects of ocean acidification.
The main rhetorical fallacy that dictates the direction of the film is the use of apocalyptic rhetoric. By utilizing this writing technique, Sven hoped to reveal the gravity of ocean acidification to an audience who most likely was not aware that it even existed. As a result, Sven often made comments and references that expressed the extreme urgency in a manner that came off as rather irrational and thus caused the audience to disregard them all together. While apocalyptic rhetoric is a way to express importance designed to galvanize society to act immediately in order to avoid “apocalyptic” or catastrophic disaster, it also has the negative effects of causing people to simply dismiss the claim. For example, in the film, Sven compares the moral equivalence of stabbing someone in the back to contributing to global warming. Although his intentions are sincere in expressing to the audience how necessary it is to curb the emission of greenhouse gases, comparing it to the murder of another is rather extreme, and flat out undermines his original motives. Personally, I couldn’t help but sneer at this comparison,
a response I am sure that Huseby was not looking to foment by making this film.
Huseby also manipulates the audience by the use of imagery and cinematography. Did you notice every location filmed was a beautiful, natural and serene site? It is hard not to appreciate the beauty of the thousand foot high glaciers of Alaska or the mountains and lakes of Australia. Who would honestly want to go out and promote the destruction of our oceans after experiencing that newfound appreciation of nature? By filming in these locations, Huseby sought to invoke the inner “naturalist” in all of us and in doing so, demonstrates a biased presentation of the effects of ocean acidification. These same emotions would not be provoked after an image of the muggy waters of the Hudson River in New York was displayed. Huseby was rather ingenious by employing this technique, for he was surely successful in stimulating an appreciation for nature’s purity and beauty, causing his audience to truly think about the effects their actions has on our seemingly uniformly pristine environment.
Overall, the goal of showing the audience the damages CO2 emission have on our oceans Ettinger’s film was successful. One could sit here and criticize rhetorical techniques and fallacies until the sun sets. However, properly using these approaches is necessary in effectively communicating the message of “A Sea Change” to an audience with little to no background knowledge. While some techniques were indeed counterproductive to the film’s claim, the majority contributed to the original purpose Huseby set out to accomplish: that we must take global steps towards facing the dire crisis of ocean acidification before it is too late.
As a documentary film, A Sea Change introduces ocean acidification as an overlooked trend that accompanies the rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Because the film is intended for the general audience that is untrained in the subjects of ocean chemistry and ecology, the producers do utilize numerous rhetorical fallacies rarely seen within the academic setting in order to convey its message clearly. One of the rhetorical fallacies employed consistently over the course of the movie is a faulty analogy between our current situation with ocean acidification and a catastrophic or near-catastrophic crisis in past history.
In one of the interviews, an advocate for combating climate change discusses about how the United States and whole population of Earth in general should go about confronting this rising threat to our oceanic ecosystems. He believed that the key is to inform the public of the presence of this problem and ways they can help reduce their carbon footprint on a daily basis. He then refers to the days of the Cold War when schools would hold bomb drills in preparation for a nuclear war actually erupting between the United States and Russia. Although the analogy about how to properly educate the public of an issue and equip them with the tools to deal with it is valid, the comparison between the effects of ocean acidification and a nuclear war is a clearly a rhetorical fallacy.
The consequences of a nuclear bomb on humans are unquestionable as seen with the droppings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the conclusion of World War 2. Within the blast radius, human flesh along with every building simply melted away, leaving very little trace afterwards. Further away from the impact, communities were devastated by the radiation levels, rapidly adding to the death tolls. But with ocean acidification, the ramifications on the average person are uncertain and surely not imminent. Many calcifying species have been shown in laboratory studies to falter and die off when the pH was decreased to simulate the circumstances in the oceans. But on the ecosystem level, scientists are still in debate about the exact fate of the world’s coral reefs or other oceanic ecosystems. Even if entire communities of aquatic species were to go extinct, humans would mostly be unaffected except through the fishing and tourism industries. The mass annihilation of human lives from a possible nuclear war overshadows in magnitude the impact of ocean acidification on mankind.
To a viewer uneducated about ocean acidification, faulty analogies would certainly alarm him or her about this mostly un-publicized phenomenon and spur him or her to research more about it. But to a viewer who has prior knowledge in the biological sciences or came across this issue before, faulty analogies would discredit the movie in the eyes of the educated viewer. But the producer’s intended audience is the former type, so faulty analogies and other types of rhetorical fallacies would assist in raising awareness of ocean acidification among the general public.